How are foundations bringing transparency to their work to solve complex, global challenges?
That’s the question that was the focus of a standing-room-only event that our Social Impact team hosted.
Marc Gunther, editor-at-large of The Guardian Sustainable Business and author of the blog Nonprofit Chronicles moderated a discussion with clients including Jeremy Hill, Director of Corporate Communications at the World Bank; Joanne Krell, Vice President of Communications at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Allyson Burns, Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Case Foundation.
The conversation was candid, fluid, and interactive, focusing on how organizations are prioritizing transparency – and identifying the most meaningful and sustainable ways to report on impact. The consensus of the evening was that while progress has undoubtedly been made toward increased transparency, there is still important ground to be covered. Panelists offered the following as advice:
- Fail Forward: Be open and honest about missteps and share lessons learned with the broader philanthropic community. Allyson Burns of the Case Foundation spoke frankly about the importance of failure to the overall transparency discussion. She spoke about the contrast between start-ups, which often support a fast-paced, iterative, failure-as-a-positive environment, and philanthropic organizations which tend to embrace a more risk averse, slower moving culture. As Allyson Burns suggested, perhaps foundations could learn something from the open-sourced mindset that makes start-ups so successful. The Case Foundation’s #BeFearless campaign, which Weber Shandwick helped to launch, is about failing forward (faster) to move on to things that work more effectively.
- Bring Your Stakeholders With You: Include those who support you on your journey. According to Joanne Krell of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, “shared knowledge is a critical component of social impact and in order to create real change, foundations need to more effectively communicate to core stakeholders.” Additionally, Joanne spoke about the foundation’s efforts to build an organizational culture that supports increased transparency.
- It’s a Journey: Integrating more transparency into day-to-day operations takes time. Jeremy Hillman of the World Bank noted that being more open with your stakeholders is a long and potentially daunting process. It takes significant planning and time to cultivate a transparency mindset within an organization. In addition to younger donors seeking transparency in reporting, Hillman also noted that increasing pressure from large donors is going to push the professionalization of giving.
Check out the photo gallery below, and follow Social Impact on Twitter at @WSSocialImpact for the latest on trends and insights in corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and social issues.
Gary Ross Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock, the 70s fad, died this March. It was estimated that Dahl sold over 1.5 million Pet Rocks, each for around $4. For those unfamiliar with Pet Rocks, they’re exactly what they sound like: a plain rock placed into a box with a pamphlet giving instructions on how to “care and feed” it. The Pet Rock is a good example of how far kids will go to fit in, but a better example of how to create market demand from scratch. For brands that compete in oversaturated markets where attention is sacrosanct, there is much to learn from companies like Dahl’s, which successfully generate their own demand.
Blustering celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said that he cried for days after losing a Michelin star at one of his restaurants. That’s the power and allure of the Michelin star system. But did you ever ask yourself why the fine dining guide has the same name as the tire company? In the early 1900s the Michelin brothers started a tire company in France at a time when there were only 2,000 cars and a rudimentary road system. The Michelin brothers created hotel and restaurant reviews to draw patrons to far off locations and use up their tires in the process. Today, the Michelin Guide is in 24 countries across four continents, and the Michelin name is just as synonymous with fine dining as tires. The Michelin brothers saw a need, thought way, way outside the box and developed a market where one never existed.
Remember the image of a crudely drawn character that flew in the air with red wings? Red Bull started out as a humble sugary drink with a boatload of caffeine. The product was a hit with consumers but a plethora of copycat companies quickly flooded the market. As a leader in an undifferentiated market, Red Bull was faced with a dilemma: Do they promote the value of drinking Red Bull or do they create a lifestyle brand to tap into how people want to feel drinking their product? Red Bull chose the latter.
To get consumers excited about the feeling of drinking Red Bull, in 1987 the company began organizing extreme sports events: street luge (including jumps getting 90 feet of air), air acrobatics, surfing a 25-foot tidal wave, rail sliding and more. Sales of Red Bull catapulted as they began producing more and more content with extreme athletes pushing boundaries.
Today, Red Bull is a publishing empire that also sells a beverage. They’ve made millions from the articles, videos and photos featuring Red Bull-sponsored extreme athletes. As a result, the company has become the apex of content marketing case studies, embodying the extreme brand they wish to project in every facet.
So does this mean for you? While you might not sell rocks as pets, tires or fizzy sugar water, there is much to learn from companies that have masterfully created demand from nothing.
Yesterday, the Grey Lady finally opened her arms to Silicon Valley. In a landmark partnership, The New York Times announced it will publish content, including articles, photos and videos, directly to Facebook. Nine other media companies, including NBC News, Buzzfeed and National Geographic, are also part of the initial deal.
At its heart, this union offers a glance into how media companies will survive in an increasingly fragmented marketplace dominated by smartphones and waning attention spans. Forcing Facebook’s mobile users to open new webpages to read articles is clunky, inefficient and frustrating. On the other hand, so-called “instant articles,” hosted directly on the social network’s mobile app and by its servers, load quickly, present a sleek, responsive design that encourages users to stick around and, of course, feature ads that Facebook sells.
This partnership is the latest development in Facebook’s long, often uneasy history with publishers. The social network already drives pageviews (and ad dollars) to every major platform: Facebook accounts for up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites, according to the analytics company SimpleReach.
Yet that spigot can be quickly turned off without warning. In what some saw as a veiled threat to force publishers onto the platform, changes to Facebook’s algorithm resulted in a dramatic drop in news content’s reach last winter: the 100 most shared English language stories had only 10.2 million shares in February, compared with 16.4 million in January.
Other challenges await. Aside from the ethical quandaries (what happens if the Times publishes an expose about the social media giant?), outlets must decide whether a larger audience and a cut of ad revenue justify forking over control of customer relationships, data and the reading experience to an outside platform.
What is undeniably true is the line between publisher and platform is blurring – for whose benefit is still anyone’s guess.
Last month I attended the interactive arm of South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas on behalf of Powell Tate. With 30k+ attendees and 800+ sessions, SXSW is a premier gathering of interactive professionals, but its sheer size and craziness has people questioning its relevance and wondering whether it has jumped the shark.
Is SXSW worth attending anymore?
In an Ad Week commentary, RPA’s Time Leake says yes. We should attend SXSW because it’s crazy, just like the real world. Essentially, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Here are a few examples of how I saw fellow marketers live that belief:
- Meeting a Real Consumer Need: When you’re at SXSW, you’re always connected – on your smart phone, your tablet, your laptop. It’s a common problem for SXSW-goers to need a battery recharge and find themselves without a way to power up. Mophie to the rescue! Mophie, a smartphone accessory company, set up a program where you would tweet to them that you needed a charge, and they would send their team of St. Bernard dogs to come find you and charge your device. St. Bernard dogs are known for rescuing hikers who are lost in the Alps, so Mophie did the promotion in partnership with the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation.
- Forging Smart Partnerships: It is difficult to stand out at SXSW, especially if you aren’t a brand with a natural tie to the event. Carefully crafted partnerships are a great way in. Two of the stand-out collaborations I saw at SXSW were Spotify/SoulCycle and Uber/ClassPass. Standing alone, SoulCycle and ClassPass are not perfect fits for SXSW (although they could be pretty smart for the post-queso, post-breakfast taco week following). But paired with smart digital brands, they found their place. SoulCycle worked with Spotify to offer live-deejayed cycle classes, and Uber and ClassPass partnered to surprise and delight Uber riders with ClassPass swag bags.
- Making Connections Beyond the Splash: With 800 sessions, there is a lot of competition for attention from SXSW attendees. Parties and panels use flashy, clickbait titles to bring lots of people in the door. But in order to make a real impact, marketers need to make one-on-one connections too. The most successful SXSW events focused on building relationships with attendees. For example, the Spredfast Social Suite offered an intimate setting for SXSW attendees to listen to exclusive speakers, check out the hot eateries around town with the ATX Instagram Snacker Tracker and spend time relaxing and getting to know the Spredfast team.
For more on SXSW, check out a recap by Amanda Long from Weber Shandwick St. Louis here.
Three years ago, Mike Kukla walked into his doctor’s office with debilitating stomach pains. At 37, the doctor thought he was too young for cancer and didn’t order a CT scan. One long year later, Mike got the scan, along with a diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer.
Unfortunately, this meant the cancer was caught in its latest stage. Had Mike been diagnosed just a year earlier, it’s very likely his prognosis would have been more positive and his chances of survival greater.
Since this diagnosis, in between rounds of chemo, Mike has advocated tirelessly to make sure patients get exactly what he didn’t: the right scan at the right time.
In March, he was one of 17 Right Scan Right Time cancer advocates who convened in Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers about the need for access to imaging. These advocate meetings came at a critical time, just as Congress ramped up negotiations on Medicare physician payments. In the past nine years, Congress has cut Medicare payment rates for medical imaging 15 times, which limits access to life-saving scans for patients who need them. This year, the personal stories that Mike and his fellow advocates shared played an important role in making sure this didn’t happen again.
Two weeks ago, in a rare moment of overwhelming bipartisan collaboration, Congress passed a bill that fundamentally revamps how Medicare pays physicians. This time around, the bill doesn’t include any payment cuts that would threaten access to medical imaging. For millions of patients around the country – like Mike and his fellow cancer advocates – it was a victory.
The effort reinforced the powerful role of patient stories when delivering this type of messaging to audiences. Industry topics like “medical imaging technology” can be incredibly complex. When professional lobbyists take to Capitol Hill to talk imaging, conversations tend to focus on statistics and hard data. But patients like Mike bring a face and human experience to the issue and help lawmakers understand that it’s not just about the technology, it’s about giving patients better quality of life.
It’s about getting more time with family.
It’s about surviving cancer.
Meeting cancer survivors and patient advocates like Mike is one of the best parts of my job. Helping them turn their stories into meaningful action on Capitol Hill is more than a job—it’s an honor.
Watch Mike share his thoughts on why access to imaging is so important to him and his family.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 2015 – Powell Tate, the Washington, D.C. division of leading global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, has named Peter Carson managing director of Public Affairs. Carson will be responsible for overseeing public affairs work in the Washington office and providing strategic counsel to Weber Shandwick clients throughout the network.
“Peter’s Capitol Hill background and expertise in several important policy areas will help us continue our strong growth in the years ahead,” said Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate. “I’m confident that with his leadership we’re going to generate more opportunities to build our policy and issues management work across all industry sectors.”
Carson joined Powell Tate in 2007 and has led the Healthcare Public Affairs practice, in addition to working with the firm’s financial services clients.
“Companies and associations face not only increased external pressures but a more complex and rapidly changing media environment,” said Carson. “Clients are looking for smart, creative solutions and results in the converging social, digital and mainstream media worlds. Powell Tate has built a deep bench of top talent and expertise that is delivering those results.”
Carson spent 12 years on the staff of former Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT), five of them as Chief of Staff. Prior to joining Powell Tate, he worked for Ogilvy Public Relations. A graduate of Kenyon College, he resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
About Powell Tate
Founded by two of Washington’s most respected press secretaries – Democrat Jody Powell and Republican Sheila Tate – Powell Tate has been one of Washington’s leading public affairs firms for more than two decades, maintaining its bipartisan heritage while developing cutting edge programs that communicate across political aisles and multiple platforms. Recently cited as one of DC’s “Best Places to Work” by The Washington Post and Washington Business Journal, Powell Tate is the Washington division of Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations agencies and the only PR firm named to Advertising Age’s “A List.”
Our client partners at BSR, a global nonprofit organization working with more than 250 member companies to build a just and sustainable world, have released a report with Participant Media, Transparency, Purpose and the Empowered Consumer: A New Paradigm for Advertising.
It examines a central question: can advertising linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) deepen engagement with consumers?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Content centered on CSR can build trust and affinity, provided that it is truthful and accurate, empowers consumer expression and dialogue, and is purposeful.
In fact, as the report documents, there’s been an encouraging trend of major brands putting purpose at the center of their advertising. It’s a demonstration of how CSR is bringing purpose and profits closer together. This spans industries and includes:
- Patagonia’s Responsible Economy campaign, including a memorable Black Friday ad in The New York Times with the headline “Don’t Buy this Jacket”
- Chipotle’s Scarecrow ad on sustainable farming
- Unilever’s (client) “Why bring a child into this world” short film, launching Project Sunlight, a campaign to engage consumers in living a more sustainable life, as part of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan
The BSR report is timely, given the recent heightened attention to corporate engagement on social issues, from companies like Apple, Salesforce and Nike (client) taking forceful stands on the issue of LGBT equality in Indiana; to Starbuck’s effort, Race Together, addressing the complex issue of race in America.
Increasingly, companies see engagement on critical social issues as a business imperative (no longer a nice-to-do), in order to advance their business interests and to bring their expertise and scale to tackle social problems. It’s encouraging that there is a rise in advertising that reflects CSR as a strategic business priority. It increases the likelihood that consumers will know more about which companies are contributing to both economic and social progress and reward them with their business and loyalty.
The conflict in Syria has forced nearly four million people to flee their homes. From a comfortable office in DC, it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to have to leave everything behind. As part of our work with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, KRC Research partner Anita Sharma and I had the opportunity to go to Jordan to see their dedicated staff in action and meet with the families now living in refugee camps. Despite going through some deeply traumatic experiences, I was constantly amazed at the resilience and generosity of each refugee we met. They could not have been kinder or more hospitable. (Anita and I lost count of the number of times we were invited into homes and offered tea!) Much has been written about the violence and conflict, but I wanted to share a few things I learned about the families, and how they cope, that might surprise you:
Insulation sheets can be used to make pretty cool toys.
The fruit and vegetables in camps can be better quality than those in many DC grocery stores.
Jordan gets a surprising amount of snow. Snow makes life a little tougher at the best of times, but through a winterization program refugees were given items such as blankets and gas heaters to help stay warm.
The largest refugee camp in Jordan has a 24-hour medical center where babies are born each week.
This was an amazing opportunity to see the reality that refugees and UN Refugee Agency Staff deal with every day, and to see humanity at both its greatest and toughest moments.
We’re excited to take these insights and apply them to the global branding work we’re developing for the organization.
We live in a culture of criticism so it's to be expected that Howard Schultz is facing a crescendo of complaint for his decision to have Starbucks' baristas spice up their customers' lattes with a discussion on race relations in America.
Like Starbucks coffee, the foaming at the mouth comes in all shapes and sizes: it's a PR stunt that's doomed to fail; the baristas aren't qualified to lead the discussion; customers don't want to have it; it's ridiculous to address this subject in a matter of seconds over a coffee counter. The list goes on.
I demur. It’s unseemly for those who us who constantly bemoan our polity’s inability to have adult conversations (and I mean me) to complain when someone wants to encourage them.
Yes, the idea might not work. It might backfire. Some customers might be irritated. Some verbal, or physical, arguments might ensue. (For a really good essay on the pros and cons, see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s piece on Time.com.)
But maybe some constructive interactions will result. Maybe some stereotypes will be shattered. Maybe some common ground might be found among some uncommon pairings.
Anyone who has a better idea and a more public platform is welcome to try something else. In the meantime, as communicators, shouldn't we applaud the attempt at communications?
PS -- There is plenty of room for disagreement here so in the spirit of encouraging dialogue, please fire away.
After months of anticipation and marketing emails, SXSWedu – a component of the South by Southwest family of conferences focused on promoting creativity and social change in the field of education – is right around the corner. It’s time to dust off your cowboy boots and connect with edu-friends and colleagues from across the country. Before you go, consider these tips for maximizing your time in Austin:
- Talk to Everyone: How often are you surrounded by educators and members of the public, private and nonprofit sectors focused on education? Take every opportunity to ask journalists what they're writing about and tell teachers about the campaign you're launching. The best feedback or inspiration might come from the person with whom you're sharing a power outlet between sessions.
- Never Settle: If a session doesn’t live up to your expectations or capture your interest, duck out and join another. It may be uncomfortable to leave, but there will be too many exciting alternatives to stay in a session that disappoints. Give yourself permission to find those second-choice sessions that might prove more engaging.
- Think Before Tweeting: Don’t just be a part of the social media conversation around the conference – add something to it. Live tweeting memorable quotes from popular sessions is less likely to earn likes and re-tweets than paying attention to the discussion – offline and online – and then updating or replying with original thinking. In other words, being thoughtful is more important than being first.
- Get Out: Austin is known for its distinctive food, music and culture. Find time to leave the Hilton and Convention Center and explore city before it’s overtaken by Interactive, Music and Film. At the very least, wander a few blocks and check out the storefronts and structures brands are building for those festivals.
Above all, enjoy! I’ll see you at #SXSWedu.
In 1921, Herbert Bayard Swope, the editor of The New York Evening World, created the first-ever page in a newspaper that would be devoted strictly to opinions. Previously that page, appearing opposite editorials, ran book reviews, updates on high society and, yes, obituaries.
“It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting,” Swope wrote. So he “decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.”
Talk about starting something big. Today, the industrial opinion complex is exploding, with opinions delivered daily via newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.
Still, the op-ed has undergone a major makeover in the 96 years since, with certain trends unfolding. As someone who has teamed up with clients to develop op-eds over 20-plus years, I’ve noticed that opinion pieces have taken three decidedly new directions. Herewith, some advice:
1. Do your homework. That edict from Mr. Swope about “ignoring facts?” Forget it. Your average op-ed today is more intensively reported and more rigorously researched, than ever before. And arguably no research is more highly regarded than original research, ideally presented as an exclusive. Opinion alone is no longer enough, so no authors merely pontificating from Mount Olympus need apply. Indeed, opinion pieces in some instances resemble reportage. For any opinion piece to be regarded as reliable, much less persuasive, it must be assembled from facts.
2. Download some data. No, this is a different proposition from simply doing research. With algorithms and predictive analytics ever available, everything in the universe is suddenly regarded as quantifiable. The mantra is metrics. Sometime soon I fully expect someone to claim that top-tier op-eds last year contained, say, 37% more data than in the previous year.
3. Get personal. Nothing is more convincing than first-person testimony, a this-happened-to-me scenario. Back in 2005, John Whitehead, former chairman of Goldman Sachs, took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to accuse New York attorney general Elliot Spitzer of threatening him by phone. Memorable. Shortly after, a former Goldman broker came out in The New York Times to chronicle the culture of greed he perceived that motivated him to quit the firm. Equally unforgettable.
While we're at it, one last tip here: aim for perfect. Standards for top-tier opinion pieces are more exacting than ever. The op-ed you submit for consideration should be as close as possible as good to go, or else nobody will even give it a second look. On the whole, editors at important national outlets accept pieces that require only minimal editing. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for love at first sight.
From moms of school-age children to food manufacturers to farmers to federal government officials, everyone has a voice when it comes to what we eat – and a social media megaphone to share their beliefs and concerns. With battles brewing over GMOs, added sugars and menu labeling, and the release of the highly anticipated Dietary Guidelines, our plates will be full of food policy issues in 2015.
At this year’s inaugural Powell Tate Breakfast Club event, Helena Bottemiller Evich, food and agriculture reporter for POLITICO; Chase Purdy, nutrition and agriculture reporter for POLITICO; and Jerry Hagstrom, founder and executive editor of The Hagstrom Report and National Journal columnist, led a spirited discussion about the top food, nutrition and agriculture issues on the table.
In the current political environment, the panelists said it will be very difficult to pass standalone legislation such as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, and projected the most interesting developments taking place in Appropriations. Meanwhile, they’re watching agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tackle food safety and food waste issues, among others.
The panelists also agreed the school lunch debate will continue with industry groups battling over market share. Meanwhile, many Americans feel strongly that the federal government should stay out of their kitchens and school cafeterias, and are wary of policies that purport to shape their family’s diet. Most likely, the panelists hypothesized, these fights will be waged at the hyper local level on a school-by-school basis.
Additionally, although the panelists noted an abundance of opinion in the food and nutrition dialogue, they lamented a dearth of solid reporting rooted in science and facts. This creates an even more urgent need for us to identify opportunities for credible experts – physicians, dietitians, researchers – to shape the dialogue and steer consumers clear of misleading “junk science.”
To stay abreast of these issues as they unfold, follow us on Twitter at @PTFood.
Those of us living inside the Beltway are consumed by political minutiae. By consuming a daily diet of dyspeptic discourse about policies and candidates, we believe we gain insight into which party is gaining momentum and which candidate is best positioned to claim the White House in 2016.
But an interesting piece in the current National Journal calls into question the predictive benefits of all this information and jabbering. Alan Abramowitz, a professor of Political Science at Emory University, has created the “Time for Change” model for predicting presidential winners. Since 1988, he has correctly called the popular vote in each presidential election.
Incredibly, the model is based on only three variables: the incumbent president’s approval rating, the GDP in the 2nd quarter of the election year and the number of terms the president’s party has occupied the White House.
So we yammer on about the size of the media buy in Montana’s 3rd Congressional District (trick factoid), or the new app that allows campaigns to post campaign ads in your cereal bowl (trick factoid, I think) or the other communications wizardry that dominate modern campaigns and coverage, and very little of it actually matters. The quality of the candidates and the campaigns, and other variables, do make a difference, but only at the margins.
Although political pros don’t buy the theory – probably because acceptance would deny them the opportunity to buy the items their current incomes now allow -- it does make some sense.
The vote for president is intensely personal. Do I like the guy in the White House (yes, guy, until Hillary or Elizabeth or Sarah get elected)? How’s the country doing? Haven’t the Ds or Rs been around too long? Answer those questions, Abramowitz said, and you can pretty much guess who’ll win.
Abramowitz handicaps the 2016 race in the piece, (“Predictive Intelligence,” Feb. 14). It’s worth a read. As Mark Twain once said: “Interesting, if true.”
Millennials will soon surpass Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest demographic group, so it’s no surprise that marketers are showering them with attention. With a population of approximately 75 million, Millennials represent almost 25 percent of the U.S. population. By 2017, these digital natives are projected to spend $200 billion annually, and brands are clamoring to understand how best to market to the largest consumer generation in history.
A recent series of posts by teenager Andrew Watt (Part 1 and Part 2) have garnered industry attention and reignited a dialogue on Millennial use of social media. I was particularly struck by the reaction of social media scholar, Danah Boyd, to Watt’s opinions of the most popular social platforms. While Watt shares his observations on his generation’s use of social media, Boyd’s “old fogey” rebuttal reminds us that broad generalizations can be dangerous. These differing perspectives highlight the fact that Millennials are hardly a homogenous bunch, and the conversation underscores several strategic imperatives for developing an effective content marketing program:
1) Establish a platform strategy - With the list of social platforms growing by the day, it is crucial to define (and redefine) marketing campaign goals and continually reassess social media platforms that resonate with target audiences. Focusing efforts and resources on audience-relevant social platforms helps ensure strategic pay-off and improves the chances of developing a responsive community for your campaign. We must continuously evaluate our approach to ensure we are tracking with our audience interests.
2) Stand out in the crowd - People produce and consume A LOT of content, so social news feeds are crowded. On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. People want to be intrigued and entertained, so successful marketing depends on creative campaigns that stand out and immediately captivate your target audience. Rather than creating messages that appeal to “insiders,” use focus groups and market research to help inform your creative approach.
3) Understand content curation - As we already know, content is king. Social platform algorithms help users personalize their feeds to feature content that will generate the most engagement. Community insights either gathered through research or through social platform analytics (like Facebook and Twitter) allow you to tailor your messaging and increase your engagement opportunities. It’s not a one-size fits all space -- unique messaging based on audience interests helps drive campaign success.
We live in an age of almost limitless audience data that affords marketers the opportunity to personalize creative and increase campaign effectiveness. As marketers look to engage an extraordinarily diverse and social media savvy population, it’s never been more important to do your homework and invest in a strategy that affords your brand flexibility to adapt as key audiences – and social trends – evolve.
Two of the sports world’s most visible people provided a nice lesson last week in the benefits and liabilities of using humor when speaking with the media.
In his annual Super Bowl press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the conflict of interest inherent in the NFL’s paying for a law firm to investigate “deflategate.” Whatever you think of the question, recall that Tom Brokaw once said, “There are no bad questions. Only bad answers.” Goodell gave one. In his response, he rhetorically asked whether the inquiring reporter would pay for the investigation. In a private conversation, the remark would have been amusing and sensible. After all, if the NFL isn’t going to pay for the probe, would the media, or anyone else? But in the press conference setting, and uttered without the trace of a smile, Goddell’s answer was sarcastic, defensive and not at all funny – and he was pilloried for it.
On the other hand, Tiger Woods showed a lighter side that’s been frequently missing during his years of golf domination. Following a horrendous round of 82 (we should all have such troubles) at the Waste Management Open, Woods could have easily avoided the media – and probably would have not very long ago. Instead, he opened his press availability by saying “I’m only here to avoid the fine,” a quick-witted and laugh-out-loud funny reference to the Seattle Seahawk’s vocally challenged running back Marshawn Lynch. After an obviously painful round of golf, being able to laugh at yourself – and make others laugh with you – can’t help but make a positive impression and may be a sign that Woods realizes his image doesn’t just depend on what he does inside the ropes.
So if you’re keeping score at home, the results this week are: Self-deprecation 1, Sarcasm 0. Not a bad thing to remember to tell our clients.
Executive Vice President
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